Alice Hoenigman stood just 100 yards from the spot where she married her partner on June 25, the day a federal judge ruled that same sex couples could wed in Indiana.
But on Monday, Hoenigman and dozens of others were rallying to make her union and hundreds of others legal again.
Just days after her wedding – performed in the Marion County Clerk’s office – the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the lower court decision that had declared Indiana’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. That left Hoenigman’s marriage and others in limbo.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based appeals court will hear oral arguments in the case. The group that gathered Monday at the Indianapolis City Market – just across the street from the clerk’s office – came to send the attorneys and plaintiffs in the case off to the windy city.
“We knew there could be a stay. We knew we could be in legal limbo,” Hoenigman said as she waited for Monday’s rally to begin. “But it was a calculated decision to get married in Indiana. We knew we’d rather do that than go to Illinois” where gay marriage is legal.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will actually consider two cases on Tuesday – one involving Indiana’s law and another involving a similar ban on gay marriage in Wisconsin. In June, a federal judge overturned the Wisconsin ban on gay marriage, leading hundreds of same-sex couples there to wed during the week before a stay stopped the nuptials.
In both cases, attorneys general are defending their state laws. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has characterized the case as one about “whether individual states can exercise legislative authority in the regulation and licensing of marriage.”
“This statute is something that my office as Indiana’s lawyer must defend in order for the courts to hear the case and provide the legal answer to this important question,” Zoeller said.
The 7th Circuit represents three states – Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. Any decision that court makes would apply only to those states. But there have been 20 federal court rulings in favor of same sex marriage in the past year – including decisions by appeals courts in the 4th and 10th circuits.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue in the coming year, regardless of the outcome of the Indiana case, and a decision from the nation’s high court applies in all 50 states.
The rally Monday in Indianapolis was just the first in a series, with additional send-off events scheduled for Lafayette and Munster. Gay rights supporters also planned a Monday evening rally at the Federal Plaza in Chicago.
Similar send-off events were planned for Racine and Madison in Wisconsin on Monday.
Steven Stolen, who married Rob MacPherson in California in 2008, is a plaintiff in the Indiana case and is fighting for his union to be legally recognized in Indiana. But in his appearance with MacPherson at the rally, Stolen said the case is not just about his marriage.
“This is about the law and love coming together in all the right ways,” he said.
Henry Greene – another plaintiff in the case – said he’s confident the court will rule in his favor so he and his long-time partner, Glenn Funkhouser, can legally marry in Indiana. They appeared at the rally with their son, Casey, whom they took in as a foster child 10 years ago.
“Love will win it,” Greene said. “It always has and always will.”
Hoenigman watched from the side, occasionally holding up a sign that read, “Marriage matters to all Hoosier families.”
She thought back to her own wedding at the clerk’s office. She and her wife, Brittany Jones, had known a judicial decision was coming and, even though they had a wedding planned in August in Illinois, knew they wanted to be among the first to take the plunge in Indiana.
When they did, “it was incredible,” Hoenigman said.
“It was so powerful – on a personal level but then to also see all the other people there,” she said. “Now we’re anxiously waiting to see what this court is going to do. I’ve been gay a long time and seen a lot of things, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.